49ers notes: Smith returns to 'Stick thinking small


49ers notes: Smith returns to 'Stick thinking small

Follow @MaioccoCSN
Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com
SANTA CLARA -- It might not be just another exhibition game for 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, but that is certainly the way he is treating it.When the 49ers face the Raiders on Saturday night at Candlestick Park, Smith enter with a widening lead for the team's starting quarterback job. Coach Jim Harbaugh on Tuesday said Smith has created "separation" in the competition with rookie Colin Kaepernick.Now, Smith might want to convince the 49ers fans he's the best choice, too.
"My mindset is a play at a time, put some good plays together, not get too carried away with anything else, the fans or the 'Stick or whatever," Smith said."I'm trying to put some good plays together and make good decisions, throw some good balls, get some rhythm for this offense. We really struggled to get any rhythm last week, so I think that's the next step."Smith heard some boos Sunday at Candlestick Park during a practice session that was free and open to the public. But Monday and Tuesday, he bounced back with two of his best practices of training camp, Harbaugh said. He appeared to strengthen his grip on the 49ers' starting quarterback job."I'm getting back in the groove of things, and throwing it well and seeing things well," Smith said. "There's still a lot ahead of me but, yeah, I feel like I've put a few days together that have been pretty decent."Kaepernick continues to impress Harbaugh, too. Kaepernick took the final 11 snaps with the first team on Tuesday during a two-minute end-of-half situation in which he got the team in position for a field goal."I expect to do better," Kaepernick said of his goal for the second exhibition game. "I want to improve game to game, so I can work my way into a starting position." Former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said this week he seriously considered signing with the 49ers before deciding on joining the Tennessee Titans.Harbaugh was clearly alluding to Hasselbeck on Tuesday when he talked about the 49ers' quest to find a third quarterback."We thought had a guy in free agency and it didn't work out," Harbaugh said.NEWS: Hasselbeck was first veteran QB 49ers pursued
If Hasselbeck had signed with the 49ers, it would not have been to merely carry a clipboard and wait for a chance behind Smith and Kaepernick. But, now, a third-stringer is what the 49ers are seeking.
The 49ers worked out veteran Daunte Culpepper on Monday and appeared prepared to sign him. Culpepper reported back to the 49ers' team hotel after working out. He remained there until the 49ers determined they would continue their search.NEWS: 49ers set up workout with Culpepper
"We want to make sure we have the best guys we can get on our roster," Harbaugh said. "We have two guys competing for that job right here (undrafted rookies Jeremiah Masoli and McLeod Bethel-Thompson), as well. Having a third quarterback is something we'd like to have. I think if you don't, you roll the dice a little bit."There'll be a few other guys coming in for workouts. That's the best way to do it. You look and evaluate it and kind of compare and see what would be best for us." Adam Snyder, who is competing for the staring center job against veteran Jonathan Goodwin, is simultaneously competing for the right guard spot with Chilo Rachal. Snyder saw considerable practice time Tuesday, as Rachal was in and out of the lineup.
Harbaugh said the 49ers will do more mixing on the offensive line on Saturday against the Raiders."We're doing some of that in practice now," Harbaugh said. "All the offensive linemen need to play their position and play opposite side, too. We do a lot of that for versatility. And the second reason is to see what combinations are for the best five." Shawntae Spencer, who started all 16 games the past two seasons, has taken part in just two full practices this training camp because of a hamstring strain. Rookie Chris Culliver continued to take advantage of the increased practice time, as he made a diving interception of a Kaepernick pass intended for receiver Tyler Beiler.Tramaine Brock and Tarell Brown have also worked themselves into contention for significant roles."They're getting their hands on balls, tight coverage," Harbaugh said. "They're two of the guys who are really adding to bolster our secondary right now." Rookie running back Kendall Hunter might be the shortest player on the team, but he is every bit the talent the 49ers thought they were getting when they selected him in the fourth round.Said Harbaugh: "Justin Smith made the comment yesterday, 'That back is really good.' He said, 'I'd like to think I would've had him. It's practice, but if truth be known I would've pulled a groin trying to get him.' It was interesting to hear a pro like Justin Smith say that. Really, encouraging. He (Hunter) is coming along really well. I think he'll be just fine."

49ers' Buckner selected to All-Rookie team

49ers' Buckner selected to All-Rookie team

San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman DeForest Buckner on Monday was selected to the NFL's All-Rookie team in a vote of the Pro Football Writers of America.

Defensive end Joey Bosa of the Chargers was named Defensive Rookie of the Year. Running back Ezekiel Elliott of the Dallas Cowboys was named Rookie of the Year and Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Buckner, the 49ers’ No. 7 overall pick from Oregon, started all 15 games in which he appeared. He ranked second among all NFL defensive tackles with 73 tackles on the season. He finished with six sacks, ranking fourth in the NFL among rookies.

2016 PFWA ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: RB Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
2016 PFWA OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: RB Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys
2016 PFWA DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: DE Joey Bosa, San Diego Chargers

QB – Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys
RB – Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas Cowboys; Jordan Howard, Chicago Bears
WR -- Sterling Shepard, New York Giants; Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints
TE – Hunter Henry, San Diego Chargers
C – Cody Whitehair, Chicago Bears
G – Joe Thuney, New England Patriots; Laremy Tunsil, Miami Dolphins
T – Jack Conklin, Tennessee Titans; Taylor Decker, Detroit Lions
DL – Joey Bosa, San Diego Chargers; DeForest Buckner, San Francisco 49ers; Chris Jones, Kansas City Chiefs; Yannick Ngakoue, Jacksonville Jaguars
LB – Jatavis Brown, San Diego Chargers; Leonard Floyd, Chicago Bears; Deion Jones, Atlanta Falcons
CB – Vernon Hargreaves III, Tampa Bay Buccaneers; Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars
S – Karl Joseph, Oakland Raiders; Keanu Neal, Atlanta Falcons
Special Teams
PK – Wil Lutz, New Orleans Saints
P – Riley Dixon, Denver Broncos
KR – Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
PR – Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs
ST – Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs

49ers Mailbag: Shanahan the overwhelming favorite, if he wants it

49ers Mailbag: Shanahan the overwhelming favorite, if he wants it

The 49ers have interviewed six head coach candidates and nine prospects for the general manager position.

During the search, 49ers executives Jed York and Paraag Marathe admitted to candidates that mistakes were made and the roster is in shambles. They have also promised all the resources necessary and plenty of patience in fixing the problem, according to multiple sources.

Three of the 49ers’ six original coach possibilities – Sean McVay (Los Angeles Rams), Sean McDermott (Buffalo Bills) and Anthony Lynn (Los Angeles Chargers) -- have already taken jobs elsewhere. Perhaps the top candidate, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, decided against uprooting his four children from the East Coast and remain in the no-lose situation of working with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady for at least another season.

That leaves Kyle Shanahan and Tom Cable as the last known candidates for the job. And this is where we go to our 49ers Mailbag to answer questions submitted on our Facebook page:

Do you think Kyle Shanahan will be our next coach?‬ (Praize Rodriguez)
I’m not able to predict how strongly Shanahan, 37, wants to become a head coach at this stage in his career. But it appears to be his job if he wants it.

The 49ers decided to wait on McDaniels and Shanahan. McDaniels announced on Monday that he has removed himself from consideration. That leaves Shanahan as the overwhelming favorite for the job. Really, he is the only legitimate candidate for the job.

Cable is regarded around the league as a good coach. In the right circumstances, maybe he will again get the opportunity to be a head coach in the NFL. But the 49ers might be the worst fit, considering what occurred when he was in the Bay Area as the Raiders coach. Cable's time with the Raiders ended with allegations he punched an assistant coach, breaking his jaw, and had a history of domestic violence.

The 49ers will be able to speak again with Shanahan after the NFC Championship. If the Atlanta Falcons lose, they can get the deal done immediately. If the Falcons advance to the Super Bowl, they must wait until after the game to make things official.

The last team to wait for a Super Bowl coach was the Atlanta Falcons, who ended up with Dan Quinn, who signed a contract in the early morning after the Seattle Seahawks’ loss to New England in Super Bowl XLIX in February 2015.

That worked out pretty well.

Who would be the best GM fit if the 49ers hire Kyle Shanahan?‬ (Brad Peltier) ‬
The 49ers were the only team with a general manager opening this offseason after firing Trent Baalke. With no competition, the 49ers compiled a strong list of interviews for the job.

Assuming Shanahan wants the coach job, he will be able to meet with the finalists for the general manager position and see which of the remaining candidates he believes is the best fit for his philosophy on building a roster.

York and Marathe set out two weeks ago to find the best pairing of coach/general manager, so their input and direction during the final phase will be pivotal, too.

Arizona’s vice president of player personnel Terry McDonough looks like a strong fit. McDonough is believed to have Shanahan ranked at the top of his list of coaches even though the men have never worked together. McDonough has experience on the pro and college scouting sides, and he has helped build one of the top defenses in the NFL with the Cardinals.

Green Bay director of football operations Brian Gutekunst also has extensive history as a college scout, and he impressed the 49ers with a strong interview on Jan. 5. There is also some buzz about Minnesota assistant general manager George Paton and Seattle co-director of player personnel Trent Kirchner.

Who do you think will be the defensive coordinator if Shanahan takes the job?‬ (Ryan Cruz)
The 49ers last year received permission from the Houston Texans to interview linebackers coach Mike Vrabel for the position. Vrabel’s stock has only risen after the Texans ranked first in the NFL in total defense under coordinator Romeo Crennel. Vrabel turned down Chip Kelly's job offer.

Vrabel’s name surfaced for the first time this offseason as a head-coaching candidate, though he did not receive a formal interview. This would be a good opportunity to Vrabel to, in essence, be the head coach of the defense while Shanahan’s focus is solely on the offense. This could be a tempting situation for Vrabel because Shanahan's offense does not present the same issues and concerns that defensive coaches had working on the other side of Kelly.

Another strong candidate to join Shanahan’s staff as defensive coordinator is Falcons’ secondary/senior defensive assistant Marquand Manuel. Manuel played eight NFL seasons as a defensive back and worked with Falcons coach Dan Quinn at the University of Florida, then Seattle before moving onto Atlanta.

If Shananahan is coach, is Kap pretty much done in SF?‬ (Juan Ito Heredia)
Of course, that decision on what happens with Colin Kaepernick and the remainder of the roster will be up to the new head coach and general manager.

But one of the 49ers’ main selling points is a fresh start and a clean break from how things have happened in the past. That means the head coach will be free to choose his own staff. That means the general manager can structure the scouting department as he chooses.

That also means, of course, that the coach and general manager will have all the power to assemble the roster.

It is difficult to believe any new coach and new general manager will not want to hit the reset button and start over at the quarterback position.